During this time of Advent, a season of cheer and joy, there are people who do not have much in economic standings or bank balances to be cheerful or grateful for. Such people can be located in the most developed of countries as well as within the most underdeveloped countries of our 21st-century world.
The economic meltdown as recognized after the crash on Wall Street has had global effects. People are living in the aftermath of what is best described as "best as they can." It must be admitted, however, that while people of different race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and religion face economic hardship throughout the world, it is the poorest of the poor who will feel it most.
Some will argue that in times of personal discomfort, it is not easy to acknowledge another's pain, or the fact that one is better off than the other. I believe it to be quite natural for you and I to feel our individual and personal pain, thus operating from it as a reference. It is on the other hand possible to recognize that even within one's personal pain or discomfort, there are those who are less fortunate and in greater distress. If we allow our individual reference to become our preference of understanding the world, we are choosing to recognize our personal hardship and deny the reality of those who have less.
In No Future Without Forgiveness, Bishop Desmond Tutu points out that while South Africa was in the midst of celebrating our victory over apartheid and the beginnings of our new democracy, we displayed a total inaction and silence to our brothers and sisters suffering through the horrendous Rwandan genocide. Bishop Tutu's voice must be harkened in our current-day South Africa as it relates to our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters. While gathering with family and friends this festive season, may we have awareness and a concern for those who are less fortunate and people who are in dire circumstances.
In these times of excessive shopping, carol-singing, or sharing gifts, may we be mindful of the blessings we have. May we be practical and exemplary in ensuring that from the little or the much that we have, that we will seek to be a blessing to people around us. I was most inspired by my parents who, with their own financial burdens, were able to rally together with my siblings and a couple from the U.S. to organize and facilitate a Christmas party for about 450 children from a community in south-side Johannesburg. My parents hope to continue running programs and initiatives within this community, in partnership with local businesses, churches, community members, schools, etc., which will ensure the healthy development of young people, their families, and their community.
A coming together of people from diverse backgrounds of religion and faith, economic standing, ethnicity, and race may be the inspiration required to stimulate initiatives and programs that may start during this Christmas season, but continue beyond it because this Christmas became about our existence being bound up in our brother and sister's calamity. May the spirit of the holidays be lived out with people of faith who will proclaim the love and mercy of God in tangible and practical ways -- ways that will encompass our heads and hearts, minds and feet, words and deeds, and, most definitely, our money and our long-term commitment.
Seth Naicker is an activist for justice and reconciliation from South Africa. He is currently studying and working at Bethel University, in St. Paul, Minnesota, as the program and projects director for the Office of Reconciliation Studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com